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RETRO REVIEW: 21 GRAMS
February 13, 1999
RETRO FUTURE REVIEW: BATS 2
February 13, 1999

RETRO REVIEW: 15 MINUTES

Classic CHUD!

Reviewed by Nick Nunziata

Directed by John (2 Days in the Valley, Two of a Kind) Herzfeld

Starring Robert (Ronin, The Godfather, Part Two) Deniro, Edward (She’s the One, Saving Private Ryan) Burns, Kelsey (Down Periscope, Toy Story 2) Grammer, Melina (Rounders, The Long Kiss Goodnight) Kankaredes, Karel (Kanarska spojka, Crackerjack 2) Roden, Oleg (Air Force One, Counter Measures) Taktarov

We already know how manipulative and free of ethics the popular media is, and we’re reminded every week whenever the reality show flavor of the week is in bloom. Since the day Lee Harvey Oswald was shot on live television, the odds have escalated. We’ve seen suicide, the explosion of a space shuttle, the real and fake destruction of athletes and pro wrestlers, and watched a celebrity elude the police and a murder conviction all through the unblinking glass eye of the television.

At its roots, 15 MINUTES is a look at the power of the media and how it can be far more dangerous than most weapons. Of course, with a budget like it has and big name talent there has to be compromises and the result is what I feel is a fairly good mixture of the two.

I read the book for the film a month or so ago (read it here) and was awfully disappointed. This film’s been in flux for a long time and it’s rare that Ed Burns or Robert Deniro attach their names to garbage. Thankfully, the words on paper did little to capture the energy and surprising humor of the film and the result is something that will alternately entertain and inform.

Eddie Flemming (Deniro) is a celebrity. A cop who’s found a way to work the media over as well as a two bit crook. He’s made friends in high places (including with Grammer’s TV personality Robert Hawkins) and he’s the kind of celebrity cop that exists in the same world as Kevin Spacey’s Jack Vincennes from LA CONFIDENTIAL. Good cops, but good cops who love the limelight. Maybe too much.

Edward Burns is the flip side.

A fire marshall, he loathes diverting attention from the work and has no use for cameras and flashbulbs. When two imports from the Soviet region (the KG-used to B place you may have heard of) arrive in the states and kill and torch some old pals, the cop and fire Marshall are thrust into the case together against their wills. As each body piles up, both villains and heroes modify their game to the next level with the media right between them.

Still, it’s buddy movie. You remember those, right?

What makes 15 MINUTES a little more than a clone with an agenda is how it’s presented. First of all, the two villains are brought to life by Roden and Taktarov. They’re not stupid, they’re not driven by revenge, and they fall into their criminal scheme as we watch. So often, a villain exists and is there just to sneer and then die in the last reel. These two are tourists whose plans change drastically as a result of what they encounter upon arrival. Plus, they’re nuanced. Seeming like the offspring of Robert Carlyle and Stellan Skaarsgard, Roden is the mastermind of the duo, and the most prone to violence. Even through his thick accent, he makes for a scary but very interesting villain and his counterpart becomes the “director” of their crimes and provides much needed humor to their grim tasks.

Things get personal and our heroes (along with an admittedly generic group of supporting characters: The grizzled fire chief and police chief, the fat partner who may as well wear a bullseye, and the annoying reporter. There’s also STAR TREK veteran Avery “Overactor from Hell” Brooks providing enough ham to get us through the holidays.

The film moves pretty brisk and while it runs about 10 minutes too long, it’s a good combination of a buddy cop film and a statement on the media. It’s certainly flawed, but there’s twists, good action sequences, and terrific performances from most of the leads that keep it solid and well above the crap we’re used to seeing offered secondhand in the spring slot.

It’s a bit graphic as well, so squeamish folks be wary.

7.9 out of 10